Michael Phelps discusses mental health awareness at Lyman

Victoria BresnahanNews Editor

For the most decorated Olympic athlete ever, time is always of the essence.

As a 28-time medalist Michael Phelps, who began swimming at age 7, never had the opportunity to reflect on his life when he was still competing. He said his lifestyle was always “go, go, go.”

“I didn’t really have the time or energy to dwell on things from the past,” said Phelps at the 21st annual Mary and Louis Fusco Distinguished Lecture Series in Lyman Center.

His motivation to be the best rested in his swimming times, he said. From a young age, his coach Bob Bowman, taught him to “[dream] as big as you possibly can.”

“I knew that if I was able to hit those certain times,” Phelps said, “then no one else would be able to get those times.”

Now a retired professional swimmer, Phelps has begun advocating for mental health awareness. While training, Phelps said he would experience depression and anxiety.

He first experienced depression in 2004, he said, after being charged with driving under the influence. He could not compartmentalize anything, he said, because he did not have time to deal with it.

By the 2012 Olympics in London, Phelps said his mental health began to spiral. This, he said, was his worst Olympic experience.

“[I was] praying the week of Olympics would end and I could move on.”

In 2014, after Phelps was charged again with driving under the influence, he said, “I didn’t want to see the next morning.” He spent the next three to five days locked in his room “not wanting to be alive” or talk to anyone.

The greatest change he has made since then is feeling comfortable in his own skin, he said.

“I think for me to really be able to move past anything that I’m still hanging onto,” said Phelps. “I have to basically face it spot on.”

Photo Credit: August Pelliccio

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